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Sep 30, 2012 03:52 PM

Chowdown report: Delicious food and great company at Wat Lao Saysettha of Santa Rosa

Chowhounds gathered again yesterday at Wat Lao Saysettha for the Boun Kao Saluk (honoring ancestors and the full moon) fundraising food sale.

New on the menu was Red Curry Soup with fresh garden picked Kobacha, over rice - the red curry and coconut broth was very subtle and let the flavor of the other ingredients shine.

Also on the menu were dishes we had sampled before

Noodle Soup (pho with Lao flavor)
Laarb beef (Beef salad) - last time I had the beef raw, this time medium rare, they are both delicious
Nam Kao (traditional Lao Rice Salad w/ lots of herbs and spices)
Papaya Salad
Grilled Chicken with herb seasonings (they had both drumsticks and wings this time - I like the wings better, they seem to absorb more of the marinade.)
Fried Banana

Although I've had most of these dishes before it is fascinating to see the variations depending on the cook and the season.

It was great to see fellow hounds - Chowhounders are such fun people! And it's always a delight to be with the people of the Lao Buddhist community.

If you are interested in joining us at next time at Wat Lao Saysettha make sure you sign up for the North Bay chowdown distribution list at or one of the other SF bay area chowdown distribution lists. Melanie, can you provide a link to those lists?

It looks like there will be another food sale in early November. I was told that they will offer at least one new dish for each event and may even sell some of their fresh home-made rice noodles to take home. See for more information on those incredible noodles and our previous chowdown.

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  1. Apologies for the late entry . . . our chowdown last month for Boun Kao Saluk will be the one I remember for learning how to make nam kao, my favorite Lao dish, from the temple volunteers. First, getting the som moo (sour sausage) out of the plastic packaging. Instead of my clumsy attempt to unwrap them, one lady demonstrated by cutting the sausage in half through the plastic and then pushing each half out.

    My next task was to tear the sour sausage apart into the pink chunks of cured pork and the threads of pork skin. I asked them to check my work to make certain I’d made the pieces small enough. I’d been unaware before this that the meaty chunks and the pickled skin were part of the same product. My counterpart explained that som moo is available with and without pork skin and that I should pay attention when I buy it. Some ladies at the temple make their own and I did buy some to keep in the freezer. My output,

    Then on to the rice balls. The rice was cooked and cooled, then seasoned with salt, sugar, turmeric, coconut, and bound with egg to keep it moist. They showed me how to form the rice into balls, packing it firmly between the gloved palms of the both hands, rolling so that each ball has a smooth surface, and pressing it as hard as possible with every bit of finger and hand strength. The surface needs to be smooth so that oil does not penetrate the interior and packing the rice tightly keeps the balls together during the deep-frying. My hands ached from this process and I noticed that the two of us working on this seemed to making the rice balls with larger and larger diameters as we worked to the end of the batch. The rice balls were then fried in a wok.

    Once cool, the fried rice balls were broken up and mixed with the som moo, freshly toasted peanuts, scallions, chiles, cilantro, fish sauce, and lime juice. Fresh mint and cilantro sprigs garnished each plate.

    A new addition to the menu this time was the kabocha in a relatively mild red curry. The kabocha came from the temple’s garden.

    The beef larb, a constant at each of these festivals I’ve attended here, was again a stand-out. Made with flank steak and feathery intestine, and a wide range of fresh herbs.

    The green papaya salad has also been a standard offering, and well-worth buying. This time it was served with a wedge of cabbage and stink beans on the side.

    The stink beans were grown by a member of the temple and available for sale in bulk. I believe that I’ve had them in a cooked dish at an Indonesian restaurant before. However this was my first time tasting them in a raw state. They weren’t particularly smelly nor flavorful.

    The grilled chicken drumsticks were cooked quite expertly, a little charred on the outside and still very juicy. Yet, I agree that they didn’t pick up the seasonings as well as the wings that we’ve had here in the past.

    We ended with fried bananas, fragrant and ripe with the added scent of toasty sesame seeds.

    And the evidence that chowhounds were here.

    Wat Lao Saysettha’s next festival and food sale is Boun Ork Phansa, Saturday, November 3, noon. The temple posted a colorful illustrated preliminary menu on its facebook page including several dishes that we’ve not seen here before. The chowhounds will be rallying once again starting around 1pm.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      The Stink Beans are definitely use at Indonesian Restaurants. They are on the Menu at Jayakarta in Berkeley.

      1. re: chefj

        Actually that's where I had stink beans before, thanks for reminding me. Do the beans have any particular character to you?

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          The Bean you picture above look very young. So young that the bean really has not developed and the Pod is still edible. So that may explain the lack of "stink" present. (or may be a different variety?)
          When mature they have a smell like Garlic or Garlic Chives mixed with Methane or Sulfur.
          One of those flavors that at first you are not sure about, but eventually you miss , i.e. Epazote, Trasi, Mam Ruoc

          1. re: chefj

            Thanks for taking a closer look. Yes, the pods were young and edible. That's probably the explanation.

            Funny moment when I was trying to find out what these pods were. The various Lao parishioners had a disagreement about what the correct Lao name was and none knew what to call them in English. Then "tm" suggested that they might be stink beans and their eyes all lit up with nods all round that they smell bad.